Demographic change: Greece soon to be “oldest nation” in Europe

Status: 01/19/2022 10:36 a.m

According to forecasts, the Greeks will replace the Italians as the “oldest people” in the EU by 2030. The country lacks young people and their offspring. Even a baby premium doesn’t seem to change anything so far.

By Verena Schälter, ARD Studio Athens

The last major wave of emigration began in 2010. Because of the debt crisis, around half a million young Greeks left their homeland. Many first studied abroad – and then stayed there. “We have to stop the emigration of our young people because they are important for the economy. They are also of the right age to have children,” says Vyron Kotzamanis, a demographics researcher at the University of Thessaly.

Greece lacks youngsters

So Greece has not only lost potential specialists, but also their potential offspring. To make matters worse, the Greeks who stayed are having fewer and fewer children. “The economic crisis has accelerated some negative developments,” says Kotzamanis. During the crisis, many young people reacted in a similar way when it came to having children: “This is not the best time to have a child. Let’s postpone it until later.”

In 2011, for the first time in decades, there were more deaths than births in Greece. At that time there were just over 4,500. In 2020, however, almost 46,000 more people died than were born. And this trend will continue.

Around 3.1 million people live in the Greek capital Athens, many of whom are 65 years of age or older.

Build: AP

Significantly more deaths than births

According to forecasts by the Greek statistics agency ELSTAT, the Greek population is shrinking by around 450,000 every decade. The average age continues to rise. “More than a quarter of the population is older than 65 years and in the next 20 years it will be a third,” says Kotzamanis. “This development has been around since the war, but has accelerated in the last 20 to 30 years.”

According to projections by the statistical office of the European Union (Eurostat), the people of Greece will replace the Italians as the oldest people in the EU in 2030.

Day care places, parental allowance, baby bonus

The Greek government under the incumbent conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is now trying to take countermeasures: Since the beginning of 2020, the state has been paying a premium of 2,000 euros for every newborn. In addition, 50,000 new daycare and kindergarten places are to be created. Both parents are also entitled to four months paid leave after the birth of a child. Fathers are protected against dismissal for six months after the birth of a child.

The problem: In order to be able to take advantage of certain measures, you first need a permanent job. But the younger ones in particular often work in precarious jobs and often only have temporary employment contracts – if at all. Youth unemployment is almost 40 percent.

A good two-thirds of Greeks between the ages of 18 and 34 still live with their parents. “If you look at polls, you’ll see that Greeks are among the least optimistic people about their future,” says Kotzamanis. There is general uncertainty. “Today I have a job, but will I still have it tomorrow? As long as no action is taken to transform this situation, nothing will change.”

Stop aging from migration

If the birth rate remains low and life expectancy continues to rise, this will increasingly endanger pension systems. The number of employees who pay into the coffers is getting smaller and smaller.

Demographic researcher Kotzamanis is certain: from a demographic point of view, he says, migration is the only way to cushion the negative consequences of aging. Greece should become an immigration country.

Greece becomes the oldest nation in Europe

Verena Schälter, ARD Athens, 19.1.2022 · 08:50

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